Interview: Angela Taylor on “Met While Incarcerated”, Capital Punishment and the Importance of Second Chances

What does it take to risk everything one might have for love? For the secret love that could be found only behind bars? And what if the person you fall for is on death row with no due date, which means, it can be any time or never? That feeling alone is awful. But then, let’s go back to the person who falls for an inmate. How many times per day we hear the news of men sent to jail that start receiving love or fan letters?

The news whatever you see on TV is way different from what happens in real life. We do treat love in our own way but there are people who must be having a subtle approach to it the way most us can’t even comprehend. Angela Taylor had everything to look forward to and still has. But there’s one thing missing in her life that would make it complete – the person who can’t be close to her all the time but the place where he felt himself as home was much better than any penthouse – it was her understanding and loving heart.

The love story of Angela and Michael is fascinating. Thanks to Catherine Legge, who beautifully directed the documentary film called “Met While Incarcerated” about prison wives – Angela and Michael are one of the loving couples we are fortunate enough to meet.

As I tried to process the entire information received from Legge’s extraordinary piece, I had so many questions to ask, fortunately, they were not left answered. I had a great pleasure having an interview with Angela Taylor over the phone who shared with me her personal story, choices, injustice, capital punishment, and why love is something we humans deserve to have.

MOVIEMOVESME: How did you meet Michael Taylor?

Angela Taylor: I actually found Michael through a prison penpal site, and I had been for a death row inmate to actually write to because I’ve kind of been inspired by some documentaries that I saw to reach out and just show kindness to somebody that it was in a pretty horrible predicament and I was looking for someone in Texas just because they usually execute the most amount of people in the United States and I ended up deciding to look closer to home. Because I figured those the guys and women on death row actually have more people write to them because their cases are always, they’re always coming up quickly and so I found, I believe I searched by state, which was Louisiana, so I came across Michael’s pen pal ad on a website.

MOVIEMOVESME: It’s a personal story for you to share it with the whole world. What was the main reason for opening your heart for all to see?

Angela Taylor: I was very hesitant because obviously I did not want to be identify because of my job and because of me technically still being in the closet when it comes to sharing that part of my life with a lot of people, but I was told I had gone to a conference and I had heard the idea that obviously it’s important for people to tell their stories because it can help maybe others maybe in a similar situation or help bring understanding to a situation where a lot of people are very judgmental and they’re quick to judge but not really to understand. And the only way to change the ideals of people is to give them stories and give them people’s experiences and perspectives just to open people’s minds up a little bit. And it was a very scary process for me because like I said, I didn’t want to be put on camera. I did not want to be identified. But obviously it was important to show that these people are human beings and they’re deserving of any emotion that a human being experiences despite any of the choices they’ve made in their lives, whether good or bad.

MOVIEMOVESME: Michael is on death row and you fell in love with him. Are you not afraid that Louisiana’s prison reforms won’t change and then they will get back to capital punishment. What will happen then? Do you have that that fear?

Angela Taylor: It’s the worst case scenario, obviously, and that fear looms in the back of your head all the time. It’s there. It’s gnawing at you but in a sense you have to look at what you do have and see that obviously you have met this amazing man and he’s brought so much wonderful things into my life and we bring out the better in each other and yeah, that idea is scary. I cry about it. I have nightmares about it. But it’s important to focus on what you do have in the moment and obviously you do want to prepare yourself for those events like that and we’ve already gone through it, we’ve talked about it. We’re very open and communicate with each other about what would happen if it came down to that.

MOVIEMOVESME: You just mentioned that people are judgmental and most of the time what I have noticed that it’s unfortunately true. And I know that whenever they talk about someone who is on death row or in prison, they think that person is a monster or something like that. But here’s Michael Taylor and then here you are. Can you share the qualities that you’ve found in him that you would like to the world to know about?

Angela Taylor: He is one of the most, believe it or not, one of the most positive people I’ve ever met in my entire life. He always sees the glass half full in any situation and he is in one of the worst situations anybody probably could ever be in. I mean he lived 19 years in solitary confinement and he still sees the beauty in or the best things in any situation. Well, it didn’t go my way, but this happened or this is how it’s another day. He just keeps hope and positivity so alive in his life and then he also projects that into other people’s lives as well. And he has to me, even though there were some things that went down in his life that were very negative and yet, he grew up poor and all these negative things in his life, obviously he has one of the kindest and biggest hearts that I’ve ever seen and he’s one of the most humblest people that I’ve ever met in my entire life.

MOVIEMOVESME: How significantly has your life changed your after meeting Michael? Can you share that?

Angela Taylor: It was a drastic, it made me a better person. It really has. It was so drastic and it changed the way I looked at the world. It made me a kinder person. It made me a bigger hearted person and it made me a more patient person and a more, it gave me a sense of grace that I could live out my life and do good things for people, not just him but for other people as well.

MOVIEMOVESME: Do you believe in second chances for someone who’s been sent to prison and hope that men like Michael will be released from the death row?

Angela Taylor: I would hope that anybody that we’re all humans and I believe in second chances, especially if you know you’ve done a certain amount of time or you’ve done your, you’re remorseful and you want to be a better person. I think labeling someone based off one mistake is a setback. And it’s an opportunity for them to grow and be a good, productive person in life. So I believe in second chances, absolutely, for anyone. And I think, I hope that we can hopefully end the death penalty. I think that one it’s something that’s very important and I hope that obviously he can have an opportunity to show that he is an amazing person, cause I know he is and be able to have opportunity to come home. I know that seems kind of unrealistic to a lot of people, but I never give up that hope that he has an opportunity to have a chance at life because he’s so full of it. He’s so full of life, you know, it would be wonderful to see him be able to come out and use that for good.

MOVIEMOVESME: What would you like to tell those people who are judgmental about things that they have never gone through and things that they feel they can put themselves into the shoes of other people when in reality they never do?

Angela Taylor: Well, it’s easy to judge and it’s hard to really sit down and understand. I think that as a society, we’re quick to put a label on something. We’re quick to say so and so is like this and point our finger because it makes us, first of all, it makes us feel better and second of all, it takes less time because you don’t have to sit there and understand what’s happening or listen. So I hope that from all this, of course people are going to judge, but I know that it’s what’s in my heart that’s important.

And I know that whether you fall in love with somebody on the street or whether you fall in love online or whether you fall in love through a friend or whether you fall in love through an ad or meeting someone behind a wall of concrete and bars and barbed wire, that we’re all people and that’s the most important part. We’re all human and those emotions can go, those feelings and those emotions can penetrate through concrete walls. They can penetrate down the street. They can go anywhere you want them to. It doesn’t matter where the person is, it’s how you feel as a couple about each other despite location or one mistake that they made or whether they did this or did that. I mean, it’s about the person. It’s about the human being. It’s not about where they are or what they did or what they may have not have done. It’s about the person themselves, and that’s who I fell in love with.

MOVIEMOVESME: Do you believe that capital punishment is really worth it. Does it actually reduce crime or help correct people who haven’t yet committed a crime?

Angela Taylor: I don’t think that capital punishment deters crime, first of all. I don’t think it does at all because clearly our crime rate has not drastically dropped because of capital punishment. I think that capital punishment is against human rights because just because two murders don’t make one right. And I think that it is my hope that eventually the United States abolishes or at least Louisiana abolishes about penalty just because I just believe human life deserves dignity whether one person’s right or one person’s wrong. So it is my hope that obviously eventually that the death penalty dies out and people see that it doesn’t really serve any purpose except making some maybe a victim family might feel a little better, but eventually that feeling of watching someone else die, it’s just, it’s very traumatic. And so I can’t speak for victim’s families, but obviously it’s my hope that obviously we end up getting rid of it because it’s just, to me it’s against human dignity.

MOVIEMOVESME: How do you think unjust is the justice system because it seems it wants to serve its purpose but in the end sometimes it needs to be compassionate. So do you think that justice sometimes lacks the compassion that we need? What do you think?

Angela Taylor: Absolutely. I think that the justice system is not really, it’s broken. It’s severely broken. It is discriminatory against people of different ethnicities and social classes. I think that if you don’t have money for a good lawyer, you’re obviously going to get the book thrown at you and it’s just not a good, I mean our justice system is just, it’s not even about correcting. It’s more about just locking someone up and throwing away the key, which is truly not real justice.

MOVIEMOVESME: What would you like people to gain from your personal story that you have shared now or you shared through the documentary? What is it that you think they need to take away from it?

Angela Taylor: That we’re all human. We all make mistakes. We all deserve like you said compassion and love, and not to be treated like animals. We shouldn’t, it’s more about just love. You know love is love and no matter where you find it, and that we’re all deserving of love as humans.

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